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Schools for ethnic Koreans in Japan suffering from crisis

Schools for ethnic Koreans in Japan suffering from crisis

Posted January. 30, 2013 04:02,   


Korea International School in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture held a ceremony Tuesday morning to raise the South Korean national flag, with some 100 students, teachers and members of ethnic Korean organizations in Japan attending. This was the first time for the flag to be raised at the school, which was opened in 2008.

Moon Hong-seon, the chairman of Asco Holdings, set up the school with the intent of nurturing human resources that overcome classification of people and national borders. He also shunned supporting either South or North Korea.

Facing severe financial difficulty, however, he applied in November last year to have the school converted into an overseas school for ethnic Koreans with South Korea’s Education, Science and Technology Ministry. Barring no significant obstacles, another school for ethnic Koreans will likely be established in Japan sooner or later.

The educational environment faced by such schools in Japan is hardly stable. The country has just four schools for ethnic Korean -- one in Tokyo (Tokyo Korean School) and three around the Osaka region (Geonguk and Geumgang schools and Kyoto International School). Unless one is living in Tokyo or Osaka, the two largest cities in Japan, ethnic Koreans would find it virtually impossible to attend such a school.

One alternative for ethnic Koreans in Japan is a Joseon (North Korean) school. Around 70 Joseon schools have been established by Chochongryon, or a pro-North Korea group of ethnic Koreans in Japan. According to the South Korean consulate general in Osaka, some 1,650 students, mostly South Korean nationals, attend nine Joseon schools in the Kansai region. One requirement for students at Joseon schools is to take classes glorifying the Stalinist country. About 120 students at such schools visited North Korea early this month as members of student art clubs.

Tokyo Korean School, which was authorized as a regular international school by the Japanese government, is allowed to run independent curricula. All other schools for ethnic Koreans are classified as "Article 1 schools," meaning they are subject to Article 1 under Japan’s School Education Act and must follow Japan’s educational programs and use textbooks authorized by Japanese authorities. This means they learn that Takeshima, Japan`s name for South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, is Japanese territory. Since students learn the Korean language and culture as supplementary subjects, many graduates cannot speak Korean fluently. For this reason, the Geonguk, Geumgang and Kyoto schools are called “schools for Korean people” rather than Korean schools.

Ethnic Koreans in Japan have set up schools for Korean people, but such institutions have become Article 1 schools due to financial difficulty. Last year, their funding breakdown came to 35.3 percent from subsidies the Japanese government, 43.4 percent from school revenue including tuition, and 21.1 percent from subsidies from the South Korean government. If designated regular international schools, they are ineligible for subsidies from the Japanese government.

Except for Tokyo Korean School, all schools for Korean people in Japan have seen a constant decline in student enrollment, with just 65 percent of their quotas being filled. Ethnic Koreans in the Osaka region on Tuesday launched a committee for the development of schools for Korean people and stage campaigns to mobilize funds.